Updated: Nov 10, 2021
The fashion and textile industry uses more than 8000 chemicals in various processes including dyeing and printing. The dyeing section itself contributes to 15% - 20% of the total waste water flow. Some 72 toxic chemicals have been identified in water solely from textile dyeing, 30 of which cannot be removed.
The art of applying color to fabric has been known to mankind since 3500 BC. WH Perkins in 1856 discovered the use of synthetic dyes. Synthetic dyes have provided a wide range of colorfast, bright hues.
However their toxic nature has become a cause of grave concern to environmentalists. Use of synthetic dyes has an adverse effect on all forms of life. Presence of various chemicals such as Sulphur and acetic acid, soaps, and heavy metals like copper, lead and mercury, collectively make the textile waste highly toxic.
Other harmful chemicals present in the water may be formaldehyde based dye fixing agents, stain removers and non biodegradable dyeing chemicals. These react with many disinfectants especially chlorine and form by products that may be cancerous. Many of these show allergic reactions.
This decreases the fluidity of the water, giving it a bad appearance and foul smell. It prevents the sunlight necessary for the plants that grow underwater. This interferes with the Oxygen transfer mechanism at air water interface which in turn interferes with marine life and self purification process of water.
This waste, if allowed to flow in the fields, blocks the pores of the soil resulting in loss of soil productivity. If allowed to flow in drains and rivers it affects the quality of drinking water in hand pumps making it unfit for human consumption. It is important to remove these pollutants from the waste waters before their final disposal.
This represents an appalling environmental problem for the clothing and textile manufacturers.